Pain Relief in Cattle

The provision of pain relief in cattle for routine husbandry procedures such as castration or dehorning is legislated under the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle.

Demonstrating high standards of animal welfare also assists in meeting consumer expectations and protecting market access.

Pain can be loosely classified into two types:

  • Immediate, due to nerve damage at the site (tends to be rapid onset, and shorter duration)
  • Chronic, due to inflammation and the healing process (tends to be slower onset, and can last longer)

Pain relief also falls into two categories:

  • Anaesthetics block sensory function and numb the area. As a result, they tend to be fast-acting but short-lasting.
  • Analgesics reduce inflammatory pathways in the body, reducing cellular reactions to trauma.  They tend to be slow-onset but longer acting.

A combination of local anaesthetic and analgesia provides greater and longer-lasting pain relief than either option alone and is considered current best practice.

Pain relief options for cattle include local anaesthetic (either topical or injectable) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can be given orally or injectable.  Most of these products are prescription-only, so they will need to be sourced in consultation with your private veterinarian.

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